Pretty good job by the Air Force video folks on this highlight package: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHE9Fu5c3Yk[/youtube]
This won’t be a news flash, but service academy football teams don’t get many NFL draft prospects. Air Force has had a few over history, but the last one was Bryce Fisher in 1999. This list, done by Rivals.com, counting up the number of draft picks by school from 2000-2010, is a pretty stunning look at the success of Navy and Air Force.
Air Force and Navy are the only teams that had zero draft picks since 2000. In fact, look at the list – among the top seven conferences in college football, 70 of 74 teams reached double digits. Air Force, Baylor, Wyoming and Duke were the only four to not reach double digits in draft picks. Baylor barely missed, with nine.
So while 94.6 percent of the teams from the top college football conferences had at least 10 draft picks, Air Force and Navy had none (Army’s Caleb Campbell was drafted in the seventh round in 2008, making him the lone service academy player chosen in the 2000s). Service commitment is a reason NFL-caliber players like Ben Garland and Chad Hall didn’t get drafted, but the lack of draft picks puts the success of Air Force and Navy into a different perspective.
Navy has had eight straight winning seasons. The Midshipmen went to a bowl game each of those seasons, winning three, and didn’t lose a service-academy game from 2003-09. Air Force has been to six bowl games since 2000, including four in a row, winning two straight. The Falcons snapped Navy’s streak of service-academy wins this year.
Only 14 schools have a longer current streak of bowl appearances than Navy. Only 28 have a streak longer than Air Force’s four in a row. All of the schools above and below Air Force and Navy on that list have had more NFL draft picks this century.
Shenandoah University hired Air Force assistant Rob Pryor to be its new head coach, according to the Northern Virginia Daily.
Pryor, an Air Force graduate, had spent five seasons as an Air Force assistant. He also coached at the prep school before that. He was excited about the opportunity to lead the Division III Shenandoah squad.
“I think the biggest thing for me as a coach — coaching something I’m passionate about — I’m also very passionate about my family,” Pryor told the newspaper. “I wanted to find a place that we could go and fit in, and continue our growth as a family.”
With news today that BYU has accepted a bid to the Armed Forces Bowl, assuming the Cougars are bowl eligible or in the BCS, it looks like the Mountain West has one fewer bowl option. The Salt Lake Tribune said the opponent will be from Conference USA. The Mountain West was scheduled to play in the game, but it appears the conference will be shut out, likely because with only eight teams for the 2011 season, it had to cut back from the five bowl slots it had last year. The Mountain West has an agreement with the Armed Forces Bowl through 2013, and once the conference is back to 10 teams next year that relationship should resume.
Air Force has a strong tie with the bowl, having appeared in it three times, which is tied for the most in that bowl’s history. This year, the Falcons can likely cross off the Armed Forces Bowl as a possible destination.
EDIT: MWC spokesman Javan Hedlund confirmed that the reduction this year is based on the Mountain West’s adjusted historical average of bowl teams, so the Mountain West vacated its spot in the Armed Forces Bowl. The conference will be back to five slots in 2012.
Air Force men’s lacrosse needs some help, but they could be playing for a spot in the first ECAC postseason tournament next month.
The Falcons (5-7, 2-3 ECAC) host Hobart (5-8, 2-3), which is ineligible for postseason play, at noon Saturday at the academy.
If AFA wins and Ohio State (7-7, 2-3) loses at Bellarmine (4-10, 0-5), the Falcons take fourth and garner a spot in the league semifinals May 5 against tournament host No. 5 Denver. A Buckeyes win clinches fourth for Ohio State.
The Bellarmine-Ohio State game starts at 11 a.m. MT, so the Falcons may know their postseason fate before their game ends on Saturday.
Of all the Mountain West coaches, I think TCU coach Gary Patterson is the one who shows Air Force the most respect. He talks often about the Falcons, and how his team prepares for Air Force going all the way back to spring practices. It’s a bit unusual that a coach who has been to consecutive BCS bowls spends so much time worrying about Air Force, although that’s a nice compliment to Troy Calhoun and his staff.
So when the TCU opener got pushed back a day, it isn’t too surprising Patterson thought about Air Force. The Horned Frogs play at Air Force the second week of the season. That’s a tough assignment for a TCU team that loses a lot of talented players from an undefeated squad, including quarterback Andy Dalton. A conspiracy theorist could see that bit of scheduling as the conference not doing any favors for a team that is leaving the conference in 2012.
But playing Baylor to open the season on a Friday instead of a Saturday should work in TCU’s favor. At least Patterson thinks so.
“It gives us an extra day to get ready for Air Force,” Patterson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Talked to Carson Bird today, the former Air Force defensive back who wants to sign with a NFL contract but is prevented from doing so because of the lockout. Even though the lockout was lifted by a judge, nothing has really changed for Bird because teams haven’t sifted through the legal rubble to figure out what to do with free agency. Not yet anyway, with an appeal in the works.
While Bird waits, he has posted his pro day workout on YouTube. I’ll post it here – looks like he’s strong, and moving well:
I’ve never been a huge fan of the NFL draft. I covered the league for 10 years but always thought the draft was absurdly long and needlessly drawn out. The first round could be done in an hour and a half – it’s not like the teams don’t know who is available, they’ve done nothing but study that for four months. (Quick story: I did a draft day story with former Wisconsin defensive tackle Wendell Bryant in 2002. When the Cardinals went on the clock with the 12th pick, they called Bryant immediately to tell him he was their pick. He stayed on the phone with them the entire time – so it’s not like they were scouting out trades. They didn’t bring the card to the podium until a couple seconds were left on their 15-minute clock, presumably so ESPN could talk about the Cardinals for 15 minutes while they were on the clock. That’s why the first round takes like 93 hours.)
Anyway, a lot of folks other than me will be watching (if I needed another reason to pass, this ABSURD op-ed piece by Roger Goodell has pushed me far away from the NFL table until the labor situation is settled), and Jeremy Mauss of the Mountain West Connection blog is doing a great job on his MWC/NFL draft coverage. I’d recommend everyone check it out. He has taken the Sporting News’ full seven-round mock draft and highlighted which Mountain West players TSN thinks will be selected. There are 20 players on that list (no Reggie Rembert, or any other Air Force player) and I won’t steal his work by listing them here. Go to his blog.
The most interesting Mountain West player this year, by far, is TCU quarterback Andy Dalton. I’ve seen him projected in the middle rounds, and today ESPN’s blogger mock draft had him going 12th overall. I’m not quite as passionate about Ramsey when it comes to Dalton, but I do think 12th is a bit insane. I don’t think Dalton will be a great starter in the NFL, but I’ve been wrong plenty of times before. I’ll try one more prediction then – the best Mountain West player in this draft will be San Diego State receiver Vincent Brown.
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